*The top causes of death amongst African Americans are HIV/AIDS, cancer and cardiovascular health but now another issue is in store as bone marrow is up and coming.
According to Be The Match, every year, more than 10,000 patients in the U.S. are diagnosed with life-threatening diseases such as leukemia or lymphoma, and their best or only hope of a cure is a transplant from an unrelated adult donor or umbilical cord blood unit. Most patients (about 70 percent) in need of a transplant do not have a matching donor in their family. But Be The Match is here to help.
Be The Match is bringing awareness during the whole month of July as it is African American Bone Marrow Awareness Month. Donor registry drives will also take place nationwide throughout the month. The awareness and donor registry drives are destined to help potential patients like 11 year old, Imani Cornelius from Minneapolis.
Cornelius was recently diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) and her only hope for a cure is a bone marrow transplant. Her doctors are continuing to search the Be The Match Registry for a matching donor, but that search has not been easy as Cornelius is bi-racial.
“It is such an easy fix to such a huge problem. I need a marrow donor as do many other African American or mixed ethnic people, and it’s so easy to register be a donor. It just takes people to be self-less and sacrifice a little (the human body will replenish itself after the marrow is donated),” said Cornelius.
Chances of finding a match on the Be The Match Registry is close to 93 percent for Caucasians, but for African Americans and other minorities, the chances can be as low as 66 percent.
“I want to raise the number of African American donors on the registry because the more people that register to save someone’s life, the better the chances are for other African Americans or even any other ethnicity to find a donor,” said Cornelius.
As this month is dedicated to African Americans to register to donate bone marrow, donor spokesperson Jonathan Nazeer of Greensboro has had his contribution and perspective on this search as he first donated back in 2006. He joined the registry when his friend was searching for a match. Just a few years later he was called to donate to a 52-year-old woman battling a rare disease and again as a match for an 18-year-old boy.
“Donating is life-changing, not only for the individual who is receiving the transplant, but even for you. To know that you may have played a small part in actually saving someone’s life is extremely fulfilling,” said Nazeer.
Nazeer has firsthand experience of donating and he wants to get across to African Americans that donating bone marrow is a not as much of a painful procedure but a incredible experience that most donors say they would do it again to save a life.
Cornelius and Nazeer want African Americans to understand that if they just register to be a donor, the overall possibilities for finding a donor will get better and more importantly, following through and donating when you are a match for someone and chosen to have the chance to save someone’s life.
“I gave a family a little more hope, a few more days to spend with someone very special to them,” said Nazeer.
For information on bone marrow registry and how to help, you can visit BeTheMatch.org/StepUp to learn more about the process and the opportunity to save a life.